Thursday, 9 October 2014

Teacher Dashboard vs. Google Classroom

The approach

As usual, we try to look at new software / apps etc. in a very structured way. Dependent on what it may be (i.e. iPad App, whole school management tool), we will have a different approach. With classroom, we are looking at the tool from a whole school perspective, so we tend to go down the route of:


  • Tinkering for a few weeks by a select few - normally our ICT integration team
  • Introduced to a few volunteers for trial
  • Trial of a larger audience
This year is no different, but I thought now would be a good time to give a face-off of the two tools from a perspective of an actual user. We are only now at stage 2 of our trial. In terms of background, we are a Mac 1:1 school, use Google Apps extensively and have used Hapara's excellent Teacher Dashboard (TD) product for 18 months now. When Google Classroom was unveiled I saw it as a direct competitor to their product. My views have not changed after using the two.

Here is a brief lowdown on my feelings so far.

Teacher-student dialogue

Teacher Dashboard allows a teacher to view student work, give feedback on it using comments and navigate their Drive folders. Classroom allows the teacher to do the above, but also give marks and overall feedback outside of the document. Both tools allow teachers to 'send' documents to the students drive folders. Classroom also allows submission deadlines to be set and for students to submit documents rather than using their Drive folders. However, TD allows teachers to send different documents to different groups - your 'Beginning, developing, mastering' groups.

For me, Classroom just about wins here.

Whole school solution

Teacher dashboard is designed to engage with your student management system and allows classes to be uploaded from your MIS. This takes some tinkering*, unless you use systems that 'talk' to Teacher Dashboard. Classroom has none of this and requires teachers to do the set-up.

If you are looking for a solution that means every has no excuse not to use it, then TD is for you. However, it is very easy for teachers to set up classes in Classroom - make the class, send out a code!

Interface

Classroom is slick. Teacher Dashboard is, comparatively, not. I would have expected nothing less from Google.

Price

If this matters, Classroom is free.

Other stuff

From a teaching perspective, Classroom is idiot-proof. It makes the folders for students, sends work into their folders and removes the problematic issues of millions of shared documents and the associated emails. However, so does Teacher Dashboard. Some people argue that it removes the need to teach file management and makes students less capable. This is easily addressed by teaching these skills elsewhere.

What they both miss?

Teacher Dashboard does not really do this, and I don't think it is one of their aims, but both Classroom and TD could do with a mark book feature, where you can pull down, record, or access your grades. Management teams love this, and it is a useful feature to have. Classroom does allow grade recording and so I guess could easily add a Google sheets download/export to Drive grades feature, but I guess it is still in beta.

Overall

At this early stage, it is really hard to judge, but I guess the main differences in the products are very much down to personal choices and where your school currently sits. At the moment, it does not hurt us to run both, but at the end of the year I feel that we may have a tough decision to make, and this may depend very much on how Google develops classroom over the coming year.